What Are You Running From?

What Are You Running From?

Trekkers and hikers have a saying: “you pack your fears.” Runners and cyclists often talk about “what they’re running from or running toward. And, if you find it, will you quit running?” Ruckers have a saying they stole from the military: “embrace the suck!” At first glance, these different sayings might not seem to have much to do with each other, but if you step back a few feet and take a deeper look, I think they’re different ways of expressing that these are endeavors of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom. Essentially, all three of these sayings, and all three of these activities are different takes on Stoic philosophy. Remember, “The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.”

Running and cycling are two of the most popular endurance sports because they’re very accessible, but I’ve noticed recently that there’s an entire genre of fitness-tainment (a portmanteau of the words fitness and entertainment) around doing really hard things. Ranging from CrossFit, GoRuck, Ultra Marathons and Tough Mudder, to more underground endeavors like HDT or Green Beret Fitness. Ultimately, I view all of these things as products which are priced, packaged, and marketed with requisite YouTube/influencer communities, etc. Each of these things has their own cultures, sayings, behaviors, and equipment, which is great for sales! If you take a step back, they’re basically part of a fitness/entertainment industry.

The question is, are these activities good or bad for people? Do they help them find the strength within, or satisfy an addiction?

Personally, I think it’s easy to fall into doldrums where all you do is work, take care of your children, and spend money… If you find one of these fitness-tainment activities interesting, it might help you find some deeper satisfaction in your life. Long, slow, and difficult training over a period of months to meet a new goal can be really healthy and satisfying. And it will help with your fitness to boot! There’s a saying among fitness people, “the couch will kill you” – but, can you take it too far?

I think so….

I recently noticed that a buddy of mine in the rucking community was taking it to a whole new level. Apparently, there are more underground events where not only are people carrying heavy backpacks and sandbags, but they’re pushing the time to 25+ hours, putting their hands in buckets of ice water, holding their breath while they put their heads in buckets of ice water, etc. It really reminds me of punk music, and how people always search for the “more pure” experience: I’m more punk rock than you! While I definitely see the value in training hard, and learning to endure some pain to get to a goal, I think sticking my head in a bucket of ice water in between brutal physical activities is a step too far for me.

At some point, if you push it too far, you move from simulating pain in a safe and controlled environment, to actual true suffering and danger…

I mean, nothing compares to real trauma like crashing your dirt bike, breaking your leg, waking up while they’re setting your leg, screaming like you stepped on a land mine, having surgery to put in 18 screws and two plates, two weeks of bed-ridden misery, two months of crutches, followed by months of physical therapy, right?!?!?  No offense to anybody who thinks they’re tough for finishing a GoRuck, Tough Mudder, or marathon, but they just don’t hold a candle to a spiral fracture! I definitely made the mistake of thinking I was tough after finishing a GoRuck Tough event in 2019. Now, I know better 😂🤣😜💪❤️

I have never in my life had to “embrace the suck” more than the spiral fracture I endured 13 weeks ago, and ensuing recovery process. I think I’ve finally left doubt and insecurity by the side of the road. I have a new trust in myself, and humanity in general. I don’t wish this @#$& on anybody, but once it happens, it changes you in an indescribable way. This injury connected me to humanity in a new way. When you go to a coffee shop and tell your crowd of regulars that you’re training for some crazy endurance event where you drag heavy sandbags around, everyone raises their eyebrows and says to themselves, “I have no idea why this guy is doing this!” But, when you’re injured, everyone genuinely feels bad for you. More importantly, they share amazing stories about their injuries too, and you realize that the little old lady is tougher than the jacked 25 year old dude, because she’s had spinal surgery where they cut through the front of her neck! That’s pretty bad ass, right?!?!

In 5-10 years, will there be fitness-tainment events where we break each other’s legs to become tougher individuals? I hope not! But, if you train hard, I’m glad. I think it’s good for you mentally. Just don’t get overly cocky about what it means. It’s just training. Remember that every old man and old lady that has had surgery and recovered is just as tough as you! They never quit, because they couldn’t quit. When you’re recovering from a major surgery, there is no escape from the pain, it just goes on and on and on, for weeks and months. I think that makes all of those people pretty damn tough! 

And, for the record, quitting never crossed my mind with my spiral fracture. The only way out of the pain would have been suicide! And seriously, that has NEVER crossed my mind. I’m terrified of dying. I dread it. I know, in my heart, those last and final moments are the only thing in my life that will be worse than the last 3 months! As the saying goes: “most runners/ruckers/cyclists are either running from something, or running to something, and once they find it, they stop running” – I’m definitely not running any more. And, there is Zen in that! But….I’m already back on the mountain bikes and motorcycles because instead of running, I’m chasing dreams!!! 😂 🙂



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